Paying the Way Webinar Transcript

Learn tips that will help keep study abroad affordable while searching for a program in this webinar transcript.  After reading the webinar, you can explore scholarships and other funding resources.

Slide 1

On behalf of the Education Abroad Office I’d like to welcome you to the Penn State Paying the Way webinar and thank you for joining us.  We look forward to working with you as you prepare for a study abroad experience.

Slide 2

During today’s webinar we will be discussing several key factors related to funding study abroad.  We’ll start by discussing some of the benefits to studying abroad, going over program costs- looking at a few sample budget sheets and end with different funding resources and scholarships available for study abroad students.

Slide 3

Before I begin talking about resources and funding available, I would like to spend a minute talking about the benefits and advantages of studying abroad.  Some of the top benefits we hear are cultural adaptability, development of global skills, and improved foreign language ability. It also gives students a great opportunity to see another part of the world while still working towards their degree.   These are all skills and experiences that most employers find appealing in potential employees.  Furthermore, fewer than 10% of all U.S. college students study abroad, so it will definitely set you apart from others when you begin searching for jobs. 

Slide 4

Every study abroad program has an additional cost to just a typical semester at Penn State and no two programs have the same cost or costs structure.  For that reason there are many things to consider related to costs when you are trying to decide on a study abroad program.  Two important considerations are location and program duration.  The longer your study abroad program is the more it will cost, simply because you will be abroad for a longer period of time.  The program location is also a key consideration as some areas of the world tend to be more expensive than others.  The same can be said for the city in which you choose to study abroad.  Even within more expensive destinations like Europe the bigger cities tend to be more expensive than some of the smaller cities.  
It is important that students consider the cost of living in the cities in which they are contemplating studying abroad as these will vary with every option.  It is also a good idea to look up the exchange rate for the countries that you are considering. While this is most likely going to be different by the time you may actually go abroad, these changes tend to be small.  Going to a country where the exchange rate is in favor of the U.S. dollar will generally save students a little money.  Some programs give students a couple different options regarding their living situation.  Housing complexes that include some meals tend to be more expensive then options where students are responsible for providing their own meals.  For those students that are responsible for providing their own meals, keep in mind that buying food at the grocery store and cooking for yourself will be much cheaper than eating out for most or every meal.  

Costs for airfare can vary significantly depending on the destination.  Typically flying to a popular tourist destination tends to be more expensive.  Additionally the further away you are traveling from the U.S. the more expensive the air fare gets.  Also, keep in mind where you will by flying out of, as some students may need an additional flight to reach a “hub” airport where they can connect to their long haul flight overseas while other students living closer to these major airports might not need the additional flight.  There are also the extra costs of flying to consider, costs for checked bags and other additional fees.  It is important that students keep all of these considerations in mind when searching for flights so they can factor in all of the possibilities and research all of the costs when choosing a flight.

Finally students will need to consider what additional personal expenses they expect to have while studying abroad.  Students choosing to do a lot of additional travel to other destinations in their host country or the region will spend more money than students who plan to spend most of their time in the city where they are staying.  Also keep in mind that travel costs will vary depending on location and destination.  Costs to travel in-country may be less expensive than costs to travel outside of your host country.  Students should consider their personal spending habits when trying to estimate personal expenses as depending on their habits the estimation provided by our office could either be high or low and students should adjust this accordingly.

Slide 5

In the study abroad field we divide the regions of the world into traditional and non-traditional countries. Traditional locations consist of countries in Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.  Non-traditional locations include countries in Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.  The majority of students at Penn State and nationwide who study abroad go to traditional locations.  When considering costs of studying abroad Non-traditional locations can offer many benefits.  First, due to the desire nationwide to increase study abroad to non-traditional destinations students may find that there are more scholarship opportunities.  Secondly, students may find that depending on the destination the cost of living might be lower and the exchange rate in favor of the U.S. dollar more frequently in non-traditional locations than in traditional locations.  

Slide 6

Students can find budget sheets for every program offered through Penn State on the Global Penn State website.  At the top of every program page is a box describing the program terms, a link to the program homepage and links to the budget sheets for the program?  The items listed on any one budget sheet will vary depending on the specific program however there are some important things to know when looking at a budget sheet.  The first items on the budget sheet consist of the billable items.  These are items that will be billed to your Penn State bursar bill.  The Penn State tuition and technology fee are assessed to every Penn State student every semester.  The additional costs depending on your program for studying abroad may include an Education Abroad Program fee and the Education Abroad Administrative fee, which includes the cost of the mandatory international insurance all study abroad students are enrolled in.  The next group of items listed are the non-billable items.  These consist of other costs students can expect to incur for a study abroad program and estimations of those costs.  Again these costs will vary by program, but typical costs include airfare, a student visa, meals, housing, books, and additional personal expenses.  Students will find on any budget sheet a billable subtotal, a non-billable subtotal and a total cost.  The total costs are sent to the Student Aid office for them to consider when determining a student award package for study abroad students. 

The different types of programs have different basic cost structures students should consider.  Third party Program Providers are programs organized by non-profit U.S. based organizations that set up study abroad centers all over the world.  The three main providers that Penn State works with among others are CIEE, IES, and Arcadia. For programs through these three providers, and only these three out-of-state students are awarding an in-state tuition credit.  Another key feature for these programs is the program fee.  Providers tend to arrange the housing for students participating on their programs; they also provide extensive support to students prior to their departure and during their time abroad.  Providers typically have a center at the location where students are studying abroad from which they provide in-country support and arrange cultural activities and field trips.  The Education Abroad program fee for these programs typically includes any difference in the tuition rates between the provider and Penn State, housing costs, some meals, and the additional supportive costs of using a provider.  Occasionally, these fees can also include the costs or portions of the costs for some of the field trips arranged for the students by the center.  As the specific items including in the program fees varies by program students should check the notes section of the budget sheet for a breakdown of what is covered by the specific program fee.

Slide 7

For direct enroll programs students work with the Education Abroad office at Penn State and the International Office at a host institution abroad to directly enroll in the host institution.  The student will basically be an international student at the host institution for the time period that they are abroad.  For these programs students will pay their normal tuition based on their residency status and still incur a program fee.  For most direct enroll programs the program fee is made up of the difference in tuition between the host university and Penn State, however as mentioned before students can check the notes section of the budget sheet for more detailed information of what is covered by the program fee for a specific study abroad program.  You can see from this budget sheet however, that on most direct enroll programs students will be responsible for paying for their own housing which they will arrange with the help of the host institution.

Slide 8

Finally, Exchange programs are similar to direct enroll programs in that the students will directly enroll at the host institution working with the international office at the host university, but there is one slight difference.  With exchange programs, for every student that Penn State sends to the host institution the host institution will send a student to Penn State.  For this reason students are only responsible for paying their normal Penn State tuition based on their residency status and do not incur any additional program fee.  Again you will notice that students on exchange programs are responsible for paying for their housing directly to the host institution.  

Now that you know what to consider when you are looking at the costs of a program the next step is how to make sure you cut the costs. There are several things to consider when trying to reduce costs.  The first thing to consider is how can you save money.  Plan ahead, start saving money now.  You’ll most likely need to create a budget for the time that you are abroad to help you save money.  You should also create a budget now and stick to it in order to help you begin saving for your time abroad. The next thing to consider is creative fund raising.  Talk with your family and friends about things they might be able to give you for your birthday or holidays that might help with the expenses for your trip.  It is also worthwhile to reach out to community members and local business owners.  Consider the groups with which you are affiliated.  Sometimes if you are ready to offer something in return, perhaps speaking about your experience or writing an article or blog while you are abroad they will be willing to donate a little money to your experience. The final consideration is to research scholarships and grants you are eligible for.  Several of the campuses, colleges, and departments at Penn State offer scholarships for studying abroad as well as the federal government and other organizations in the U.S. and Abroad.

As you can see from the program fee, it is only the personal expenses where you can actually save costs because the fee or tuition for the program is fixed. So if you want to travel, look for deals, if you want to eat out ask locals where they eat out. Just like if somebody visits State College, you are the one who knows the best and cheapest joints in town, so that way you can save money as well as make friends with local, which is another important part of your study abroad experience. 

Slide 9

There are several resources specifically available to students studying abroad.  In the past the University Office of Global Programs had given out more than $300,000 between the 5 different scholarships for students studying abroad.  These scholarships are the Whole World scholarship for any student going to a non-traditional locations, Africa and Latin America grant-in-aid for any student going to Africa or Latin-America, Grant-in-aid is available to all students studying aboard, and diversity grant-in-aid is for ethnic and racial minorities as well as students with a documented disability, either learning or physical.  Keep in mind that the deadlines for the Global Programs scholarships are the same as the application deadline for studying abroad.   The final scholarship offered by Global Programs is the Pennsylvania commonwealth scholarship which is specific to embedded programs; we’ll discuss this more in a minute. 

Students are also encouraged to check with their colleges and campuses as many academic departments offer their own funding for students traveling abroad.  We try and keep our Easy Guide to Study Abroad scholarships as updated as possible regarding funding opportunities from the colleges and campuses, but if you see yours is not listed please be sure and check as we might be missing some.  Students should also check with any student organizations they are part of, some of these organizations may also provide funding for studying abroad.

Finally, it is important that all students complete the FAFSA prior to studying abroad.  Even if you do not typically receive grants and aid from the government study abroad is an additional expense where you may find that you need additional funding.  It is better to complete the FAFSA and not accept any awards than to not fill it out and wish you had.  Furthermore, any scholarships and grants or loans that you currently receive, outside of most work study and athletic scholarships, will apply to your study abroad experience, as long as you go on a Penn State approved program (note that all the programs on the Penn State Education Abroad website are approved). Students who receive the tuition discount for having a parent employed by the University should know that discount will still apply to their tuition when they study abroad.  The Federal Government also provides a couple of study abroad specific scholarships: The Boren Scholarship for Study and the Gilman International Scholarship.  We will talk about these more in depth later in the webinar. 

Slide 10

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Education Abroad scholarship is specifically for students studying abroad on embedded programs.  These are programs where students register for a residential course at their Penn State campus, then as a portion of the class, the students travel abroad together typically for about one week overseas.  Students on these programs can receive either $1,000 dollars if they are undergraduates or $500 if they are graduate students.  Please keep in mind that the deadlines for the Commonwealth scholarship are different than the deadlines for the other Global Programs scholarships.  Students registered in classes with the travel component during Thanksgiving break or in December or early January will need to complete the application by October 1st.  Students going abroad during spring break should complete the application by January 15th.  Finally, students who will travel abroad during May-mester or a summer session will need to have the application turned in by March 15.

Slide 11

As I’ve mentioned it is really important that all students complete the FAFSA.  The first of the two federal scholarship programs is the Boren Undergraduate Scholarships for Study Abroad.  This is funded through the National Security Education Program, which focuses on geographic locations, languages, and fields of study deemed critical to U.S. national security.  Boren scholars represent a variety of academic backgrounds, but they are all interested in studying languages considered to be of critical interest in the U.S. including, but not limited to Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Swahili.  Boren scholars have also shown interest in several areas including: sustainable development, environmental degradation, global disease and hunger, population growth and migration, and economic competitiveness.  Recipients of Boren scholarships can receive up to $10,000 for a semester or $20,000 for a full academic year.  There is also a Boren scholarship for summer programs that focus on the STEM fields and are at least 8 weeks in length where students can receive up to $8,000.  Students who receive a Boren Scholarships are required to complete 1 year of government service within 3 years of graduating college.  The deadline for the Boren Scholarship program varies slightly from year to year, but generally speaking the applications are due in early February for programs leaving the following academic year.  

The Gilman International Scholarship program encourages students to study abroad in non-traditional destinations, however it is not required.  The Gilman Scholarship program is also aimed towards students who have traditionally been under-represented in study abroad including, but not limited to students with high financial need, community college students, students in under-represented fields such as the STEM fields, students with diverse ethnic backgrounds, and students with disabilities.  The Gilman scholarship is only available to students who are currently recipients of a Pell Grant, which is another type of Federal financial aid.  The Gilman provides over 2,000 scholarships of up to $5,000 each.  Students who apply for and receive the Gilman scholarship are also eligible to receive an additional $3,000 Critical Need Language Supplement if they are studying languages including: Arabic, Chinese, Turkish, Persian, Indic, Korean, Russian, or Swahili.  The applications for fall and summer will be due at the beginning of March and the application for spring programs are due in mid-April.  Please note that the deadlines may change from year to year, so be sure and check the specific deadlines on the Gilman website.   

Slide 12

There are also several resources at Penn State to assist students who are trying to find ways to fund study abroad.

The University Fellowships office located in 212 Boucke building at the University Park campus is a great resource for students applying to the Boren and Gilman scholarships.  This office provides support to students applying for prestigious scholarship and fellowship opportunities.  In fact students applying for the Boren scholarship must apply through the fellowships office.  Generally speaking this means that the application will be due to the fellowships office about one month before it is due, so Students should be prepared to turn their Boren scholarship applications into the Fellowships office by early January.  While the Gilman applications do not need to go through the Fellowships office, they are a great resource to help students work through the application.  Students at commonwealth campuses can also reach out to the Fellowships office by phone at 814-863-8199.   

Students are also encouraged to speak with their academic advisers and academic departments.  As mentioned earlier several of the academic departments at the University Park campus offer scholarships and grants for students studying abroad.  Smeal, Eberly, Liberal Arts, Engineering and Schreyer all have funding available specifically for study abroad students.  Students at commonwealth campuses should speak with their campus international coordinator and their academic adviser to discuss what funding may be available to students from their campus or college at their campus.

Finally, students should meet with the office of student aid to discuss how their existing student award package will work with studying abroad.  Almost all of the scholarships and grants that students currently receive will apply to their semester abroad outside of work study and athletic scholarships.  It is also important to meet with the Office of Student Aid to discuss how your award package will change considering your study abroad program.  

Slide 13

You may want to hear about study abroad from students just like you. How did they do it? Where did they go? What’s the benefit?  What funding resources did they utilize? You can talk to other Penn State students about study abroad in a variety of ways:

Education Abroad Peer Advisers are Penn State study abroad returnees who have enjoyed their experiences so much that they volunteer their time to advise other students on education abroad opportunities at Penn State. Each Peer Adviser can explain program options, give an overview of the study abroad process, and as well provide information about his /her own experience abroad.  They can tell you about ways they cut costs or saved money.  The peer advisers have walk-in advising Monday through Friday from 11am-4pm and are located in the Education Abroad Resource room which is in room 426A Boucke building on the University Park campus.  Students can also email the peer advisers at or call them at 814-865-5195.

Students can also stay connect through social media.  Check out Facebook and twitter for upcoming events related to studying abroad.  Read the Geoblogs to see what current students are doing aboard.  Feel free to chat with the Geobloggers as well to see how they are cutting costs aboard.  Finally Join the Penn State Education abroad Alumni group on LinkedIn to see what past participants did to save money.

Slide 14

You can find a list of study abroad scholarships on our website.  The Easy Guide to Study Abroad Scholarships is a list of scholarships offered through the Global Programs office, different colleges and campuses at Penn State, federal programs, provider scholarships, and databases of study abroad related funding opportunities.  You can find the easy guide by going to Funding Study Abroad under the Going Abroad mega menu, then click on the link to the “Easy Guide to Study Abroad Scholarships” under the second bullet point at the top of the page.

You can also select the more funding resources page to find another list of possible databases to research more opportunities and get ideas for creative fund raising.

If you have further questions about study abroad scholarships and ways to keep studying abroad affordable contact your education abroad adviser.  Education abroad advisers advise by appointment only and do not accept walk-ins.  Students at the University Park campus can set up an in-person appointment by clicking on the “schedule an appointment” link under the going abroad mega menu.  They can then choose the appropriate adviser based on where they are studying abroad and click the button to ‘request an appointment or information.’  All appointments will be held in 422 Boucke Building.  Students at commonwealth campuses can follow the same steps to schedule a phone appointment, just be sure to include a good contact number so we can call you at the allotted time. 

Slide 15

Thank you for attending this webinar.  Please visit our website,, for more information related to funding your study abroad experience.